2018/07/29 How retail made me a better tester, and why I feel like a telephone operator

I saw a post on Twitter talking about how interviews should stop using closed book, isolated practical exercises as a part of applying for a job. Who doesn’t look up something on Google, ask for advice on Twitter, or speak to someone they work with?

It got my thinking about my own work history, and something that I was taught before I got into testing, that I still try to follow.

Whilst I have been testing for over 6 years now, I spent more than that working different jobs in the retail sector. One of those jobs I worked for a company called Games Workshop. One thing that they had you learn and follow (which I believe they no longer have) were the “Ten Commandments of Retail”.

They were designed to help make staff approachable, but also to drive customer sales. But, there is one that I have adapted and will use no matter what job I have:

Display an in depth knowledge of the hobby

The aim for this was due to the different games they sold, the lore within each of them, the multiple rules, editions and changes made, it is nigh on impossible to know everything about the entire hobby. As such, you don’t have to know everything, but know where to get the answer. If a customer asks an obscure question about something, telling them “I don’t know, sorry” is unlikely to help, whereas even if you don’t know the answer knowing where to look helps the customer out, and can even mean they know where to go in the future.

I carry that into my testing role, as I try to know what I can, but if someone comes up to me for help and I don’t know the answer myself, I try to help them get the answer they’re after. Not only that, I want to discover the answer with them, so if someone else asks the same thing I can give them the answer.

It also combines well with this post by David Högberg, comparing testers with telephone operators: 

We can’t know everything, but we might know how the right people to put you in touch with, much like the telephone operators of old. And every time we connect you with someone, we add another person to our network of knowledge we can call on or connect other people to.


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